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March is Brain Injury Awareness Month: Get Facts About Concussions

Omar N. Syed, MD, FAANS, is a Neurosurgery Specialist for CareMount Medical.
Omar N. Syed, MD, FAANS, is a Neurosurgery Specialist for CareMount Medical. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Caremount Medical

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- As spring and warmer weather approaches, keep yourself and your loved ones safe by learning the facts about concussion and how to prevent this common brain injury.

Concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow or jolt to the head. This trauma causes the brain to slam against the skull, which can affect the brain’s normal functioning. While concussion is considered a mild brain injury, it can have a serious impact on one’s wellbeing and quality of life. Having a single concussion makes a person susceptible to another one, and repeat concussions can lead to long-term damage such as memory loss and cognitive problems.

Everyone, from the very young to the elderly, is at risk for concussion. Most cases of concussion occur in children and teenagers ages 5 to 14, with the two most common causes being competitive team sports, such as football, and cycling accidents. Adults who participate in contact sports have a higher risk of concussion. For older adults, falling and automobile accidents are common causes of concussion.

The symptoms of concussion can range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or remembering new information
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fuzzy or blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Balance problems
  • Feeling tired or having no energy
  • Changes in mood, such as irritability, sadness or nervousness
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping more or less than usual
  • Children may have the following symptoms in addition to those listed above:
  • Crying more than usual
  • Changes in the way they play or act
  • Changes in the way they nurse, eat, or sleep
  • Lack of interest in their usual activities or favorite toys
  • Loss of new skills, such as toilet training

People with a concussion need to seek medical help. Physicians can diagnose a concussion in the medical office and can rule out a serious head injury that may require hospitalization. Imaging with CT scan or MRI may or may not be necessary.

Go to the emergency department right away if you or someone in your care has been in a car accident that caused a severe movement of the head, has fallen, or has been hit hard on the head, especially if he or she exhibits behavior on the attached PDF.

The elderly are especially at risk for concussion because they are more prone to falls. If you are caring for an older adult who has had a fall, take him or her to a doctor right away to rule out concussion.

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